Scientists Decipher German Secret Society’s ‘Uncrackable’ Code

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It may sound like the plot of a Dan Brown novel, but this story certainly isn’t fiction. Researchers have finally decoded a mystical manuscript that has confounded experts for centuries, revealing the bizarre inner workings of an 19th-century Masonic organisation.

Known as the Copial Cipher, the 105-page document was written in Germany over 250 years ago, using complex code that had seemed uncrackable. Researchers used a combination of cutting-edge technology and human intuition to unlock the document’s secrets.

(MORE: Decoding The Ancient Script Of The Indus Valley)

The document was reportedly an instruction manual for setting up society initiation ceremonies and suggested to scare tactics to frighten the initiates. Suggested initiation procedures range from the uncomfortable (plucking pledges’ eyebrows) to the downright unpleasant (telling candidates they should “prepare to die”).

Another passage outlined how to identify fellow society members in every day life. When one member asks how “Hans” is, the other should respond by mentioning a name that begins with the second letter of the first name — for example, “He’s with Anton.”

Kevin Knight, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California, worked with two colleagues from Sweden to crack the cipher and says the discovery opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. “This opens up a window for people who study the history of ideas and the history of secret societies,” Knight said in a press release. “Historians believe that secret societies have had a role in revolutions, but all that is yet to be worked out, and a big part of the reason is because so many documents are enciphered.”

Buoyed by the breakthrough, Knight and his colleagues are now targeting other unsolved ciphers, including those sent to newspapers by the infamous Zodiac Killer. Knight hopes his complex techniques can uncover the identity of the man who killed at least five people in Northern California during the late ’60s.

Jak Phillips is a contributor at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @JakPhillips. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.


Sounds like they cut through the brown sh-- and uncovered some downright bizarre and unpleasant identities the cops use to scare society into revealing secrets they report.


This scrimshaw powder horn was carved by my great....great-grandfather  Chris Jones. The horn was carved with 309 masonic cryptic anagrams & picture puzzles that tell the secret of my family. My great...great- grandfather is George Washington's only son. Scott f. Wolter of the History Ch. paid for my DNA test to prove it's true. I am Viking descent Washington- Osborne, 72nd generation to Odin and Thor. Ref. ( The Pedigree History Of The Washington Family: Derived From Odin, The Founder Of Scandinavia, B.C. 70 (1879) by Albert Welles) Kessinger Publishing's - Rare Reprints ( My great....great-grandfather's real name is Isaac Martin. He was born August, 12th 1757 to years before George married Martha. At 18 years old he joined the Minuteman Regt. he was Capt. at the battles of Saratoga under Benidict Arnold's Regt. 1777 he was promoted to Maj. General & Spy. On Oct. 15, 1781 he was captured aboard the 'USS.Jason' commanded by Capt. Charles Hamilton which was captured by the 'Monsieur' a British ship. He was taken as prisoner. After the war he was pardoned and put aboard the H.M.S. Bounty in 1787 where he met Fletcher Christian. In 1789 they mutinied the Bounty from Capt. Bligh and hid out on Pitcairn Island. In 1792 five of the nine mutineers fake their deaths and returned to the U.S. With the help of Isaac's father George & Napoleon they changed their names to a.k.a. Laffite. five mutineers and five Laffite brothers. About 1797 they were sent to France to assist Napoleon as his secret marshals ( XYZ affair) In 1803 four of them showed up in New Orleans claiming to be brothers name Laffite. Isaac stayed in Europe with Napoleon and captured the Vatican in 1809, Isaac removed important documents from the Vatican and brought back to the United States and hid them. In 1810 he changed his name from Markus Laffite to Chris Jones using his wife's maiden name, Anna Jones. She was not a sister like they thought she was his wife. Jean's wife was Yvonne Lentz, she was not Jewish, she was practicing Judaism. Chris and his wife had a son born 1810, John Jones 1st name after John Paul Jones which is not his real name either (John Paul). Here are all of their names, (Isaac Newton Martin a.k.a. Markus Laffite a.k.a. Chris Jones,)( Fletcher Christian a.k.a. Jean Laffite a.k.a. John Jones,) ( John Mills a.k.a. Alex. Laffite a.k.a.Dominque  Youx )( John Williams a.k.a. Pierre Laffite) (William Brown a.k.a. Henry Laffite). After the Battle of New Orleans,1815 Markus & Jean hid the famous Laffite treasure. In 1826 Jean and Jeanette and the rest of my family disappeared and hid in San Antonio. John 1st married Jeanette in 1833 and had a son, John Jones 2nd. In 1836 four of the six family members were killed at the Alamo & two survived, Lt. John Jones 1st. New Orleans Gray, his wife Jeanette, her father Jean and Anna Jones were killed. Ref.( The list of the Alamo's dead ) only Lt. john's name is listed. Anna was found unidentified, Jeanette was found laying between two muskets in the court yard, trying to get the loaded muskets to her husband & father. After the battle was over the Mexicans pilled the dead on to a funeral pill and burned the bodies. Chris recovered his 3 year old grandson from the Mexicans and brought him back to Pennsylvania where he raised little John 2nd till he was 17 years old. In 1852 Chris Jones died at 95 years old, but before he died he told only some of the story to his grandson. He told John that the horn told where the Laffite treasure was hidden and the rest of the secrets of his family. He told John to pass the horn to the fist son and to name him John also, all my grandfather's are name John. My grandfather was the last John C. Jones till the tradition was broken.  I was only 5 years old when my grandfather told me the story and show me the scrimshaw powder horn.  When he died he left the horn to me. In 2000 I deciphered the horn. My grandfather told me that the name of the horn is (The Skeleton Map Horn) because the horn creates a 6 ft. skeleton puzzle on paper that tells where they hid the famous Laffite treasure.  It took me a little over 3 years to decipher the horn.